Yao's injury major blow to playoff hopes of surging Houston Print
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Wednesday, 27 February 2008 00:43
NBA Headline News

 HOUSTON (AP) -Houston won its first game without Yao Ming, now the Rockets will try and keep it up as they fight for a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Houston's 94-69 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night was its 13th straight victory, but the team remains in seventh place in the West.
Yao is out for the season with a stress fracture in his left foot and is in the process of seeking a second opinion on whether to have it surgically repaired. If he chooses surgery, team doctor Tom Clanton said, it would involve placing screws across the bone to hold it together. The second option would be to treat it with a cast and crutches. Both options involve a healing time of about four months.
The All-Star center was having a great season, averaging 22 points and 10.8 rebounds.
``I am confident we will keep winning,'' Yao said Wednesday. ``I trust my teammates will move forward without me.''
General manager Daryl Morey said he doesn't believe the injury compromises Houston's playoff hopes. The Rockets are 37-20 this season.
``We've been playing exceptional ball and Yao's been a huge part of that,'' Morey said. ``We feel very confident about our playoff push. We've managed to step up and play well without Yao in the past and coaches and players feel confident that we're going to continue to play well and make the playoffs this year.''
Coach Rick Adelman said his team will not slink away with Yao out.
``It's certainly going to be hard without Yao, but the season goes on,'' he said. ``They're not going to give us a couple of weeks off to try and figure this out, we've just got to go out there and play.''
Clanton said there was no specific event that led to the injury, but rather an ``accumulation of stresses on the bone. Yao first experienced soreness and pain in his ankle before the All-Star game and tests were done Monday when the situation didn't improve.
This is Yao's fourth major injury in the past two years. He missed 32 games last season with a fracture in his right leg and 21 games in late 2006 with a toe infection that required surgery. He missed four games in April 2006 after breaking his foot.
Houston went 20-12 when Yao was injured last season.
With Yao out on Tuesday, the Rockets started 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo, who had averaged just 8 minutes this season, in his place. He had four points, six rebounds and four blocks against the Wizards and Adelman credited him with getting Houston's defense going early.
Mutombo played a key role for Houston when Yao was hurt last season, averaging five points, 10 rebounds and 1.45 blocks in his absence. On Tuesday, he split time with 6-foot-9 Carl Landry, who had 12 points.
``It was very odd, my heart was broken,'' Mutombo said of Yao's injury. ``He left a lot of weight for us to go and carry and I think we are going to do it.''
Adelman said how much Mutombo can play will be key in Houston's success. Landry has been solid, but they will need the 7-2 Mutombo's size when playing teams who have 7-foot centers like Washington's Brendan Haywood.
The first-year Houston coach said he doesn't expect to change a lot of plays with Yao out.
``It will change some things, obviously we don't have the post-up presence we had before,'' Adelman said. ``Other people have to step up now. We'll do things differently trying to free people. Hopefully we'll get more movement in our game.''
Adelman and Yao both took Tracy McGrady aside Tuesday and told him the burden is on him to carry the Rockets into the playoffs. McGrady said he doesn't feel any added pressure without Yao and the key to Houston's success will be getting contributions from everyone like the team did on Tuesday night when five players scored in double figures.
``If we continue to play defense and believe, then we really control it ourselves,'' he said. ``Everybody is really counting us out, which is cool, but we just have to keep believing.''
 

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